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Thought Crimes

Last night, around 11:15 PM, I suddenly realized that I needed something for work the following day. So I hopped in my car and zipped to the local grocery store, a mile away. On the way home, I was pulled over for speeding.

"Do you know how fast you were going?" the cop asked after approaching my window. I did, because I had glanced at the speedometer the moment he'd appeared in my rear-view mirror. "Yeah, about forty," I said, rounding down a bit.

He let my fudging go unchecked and moved on to question #2. "And do you know what the speed limit is?" Thirty-five, I responded dutifully.

"Well, right now it's 35," the policeman conceded. "But during the day it's only 25. Because this is a school zone."

He paused for dramatic effect, before saying "And just imagine if you'd been driving 40 when school was in session."

Maybe the suggestion was rhetorical, but I have a pretty active imagination and decided to give it a whirl. I closed my eyes and envisioned myself traveling 40 miles an hour, cresting the hill at midday. Before me are a dozen children, gaily frolicking in the middle of the street. What are they doing there? The school is half a mile away and completely fenced in. And surely they have some form of supervision, right?

I pushed aside such doubts, determined to comply with the officer's request. In fact, I decided to go the extra mile. I am not just driving my Toyota Corolla while school is in session, thought I, I am behind the wheel of a truck. A tanker truck. A tanker truck of nitroglycerin!

I barrel over the summit at 40-- no, 90 miles an hour! The cab of the vehicle briefly lifts from the ground entirely, as if about to take flight, before slamming back down to the asphalt. The scores of children sitting in the road ahead freeze, their faces suffused with apprehension. Each holds a goldfish bowl containing one of the few remaining specimens of the endangered Knysna seahorse.

As I approach, a single ray of sunshine pierces the overcast skies like a javelin thrown by God, ricochets off the Columbia Center in downtown Seattle, and strikes the back of my truck, igniting a small fire. I told those fools not to make the tank out of chipboard! In the rear-view mirror I watch as the blaze spreads, gnawing its way through the wall of the vessel.

When I again return my attention to the road ahead of me, I see that the nuns, into whose care the students have been entrusted, have rushed into the street, frantically trying the herd the children to safety. Their cries of terror echo from the houses nearby, as the distance between us dwindles ...

Haha. No, I'm just joking--I didn't imagine any of that. I just adopted my "dude you blew my mind" face for a few second and then said, "wow, yeah. I totally see your point."

Anyway, long story short, he gave me an imaginary ticket for imaginarily driving 40 during imagined school hours, and a warning.

Posted on August 12, 2008 to Storytelling


This post made me laugh out loud (NOT to be mistaken for LOL), and I spent a day with a whiny plaintiff, which does not leave one in a laughing mood. You are one very funny dude.

Thank you!

Posted by: Lisa on August 12, 2008 5:39 PM

I'm one of those lurkers/anonymous subscribers/whatchamacall'ems, but I have to chime in here and say, PLEASE MAKE NITRO EXPRESS YOUR RINGTONE:


And thanks for all the stuff I like to read, very much. Bye.

Posted by: Marla on August 12, 2008 6:05 PM

I have those thoughts all the time, except I dream that the kids are poor and minorities. Adds a comedic element. I tell that to my Christian Republican friends all the time.

Posted by: Rudy Guiliani on August 12, 2008 7:53 PM

and to think that you saw it on Mulberry Street.

Posted by: Karan on August 12, 2008 9:09 PM

Maria. The man still doesn't have a cell phone.

Glad you're back Mr. Baldwin.

Posted by: LizRM on August 12, 2008 9:31 PM

I've had the imagine-if-it-was-school-zone-time too - only my passanger started laughing at the ridiculousness and the minor not-really-ticket-worthy offence turned into a $180 fine :( (She paid half.)

(and I tell you what, you do a double-take when you're just about to comment and it looks like you've commented already. hi Karan up there :D.)

Posted by: Karan J on August 12, 2008 9:31 PM

Ok I'm laughing like crazy right now. :)

Posted by: Saira on August 13, 2008 4:25 AM

OMFG! I just peed my pants.

Posted by: bette on August 13, 2008 8:02 AM

OMFG! I just peed my pants.

Posted by: bette on August 13, 2008 8:03 AM

Having just dealt with a officious little asshole bus driver who stranded me miles out of my way just so he could exert his pitiful amount of power over me, you have turned my frown completely upside down. And for that I thank you.

Posted by: JW on August 13, 2008 2:26 PM

I'm stuck in that imagination... Clearly, the only thing to do is speed up to blow that somewhat troubling fire out. And if somehow that doesn't work then bail and it's every man for himself (nuns included). Large Louie

Posted by: Anonymous on August 13, 2008 4:01 PM

Isn't the cop's reasoning the same sort of reasoning uptight parents use to scold their kids when they masturbate?

Posted by: A Huge Throbbing Dick on August 13, 2008 7:50 PM

The cop didn't use anything resembling reasoning. He was using a classic propaganda technique.

Posted by: Leroy on August 14, 2008 7:27 AM

I hope no one in the Seattle police department reads dy. If they do, Matthew is unlikely to ever get off with just a warning again.

Posted by: Doc Lamar on August 14, 2008 7:30 AM

Too funny. You just made my day!

Posted by: Richard on August 14, 2008 9:25 AM

"Yeah, but kids today are so coddled. I think they need a little more adversity in their lives, so tomorrow I'm coming back here and totally driving 40 up and down this road in the hope that the children will see my rebellious Toyota careening at breakneck speed and think to themselves, 'Fate is fickle and I should beware'."

Posted by: You can call me, 'Sir' on August 14, 2008 9:31 AM

"...gnawing it's way.."

New from Microsoft.. Imagination, now with spell-check!

Posted by: jon on August 14, 2008 10:11 AM

About 2 weeks from now, while you're at work, you should grab a book and start reading for 3-4 hours, pretending to be at imaginary court. After that, stand around submissively for 10 minutes. If you feel like you won your case, get back to work. Otherwise, stand around for an hour, then pay an imaginary fine with imaginary money.

Posted by: LAN3 on August 14, 2008 4:22 PM

I miss the days when cops didn't make it so easy for us to blog about the things they say when they stop us. Mine, "just remembuh, um do'in you a favuh, because um a nice guy." Leans in the window, "UM A NICE GUY RIGHT?" Yes, thank you, you're a nice guy.

Posted by: Wickwire on August 15, 2008 2:33 PM

I'm still stuck on it being 11:15 pm when you suddenly realized you needed something for work. Couldn't you have waited for the morning to pick up the boss' dry cleaning?

Posted by: Chris on August 19, 2008 12:34 PM

You know, posts like these make me realize why I like reading your site. And then I start to feel concerned...

Posted by: Jon on August 20, 2008 6:29 AM

well at least it was only an imaginary ticket...

Posted by: sunny on August 20, 2008 6:30 PM

You forgot to add the part where your tanker truck is RIGGED so that if you were to drop below 50 miles per hour it would trigger a detonator that blows up the entire Martha Bush Hospital!!

Posted by: ReadsInTrees on August 20, 2008 8:20 PM

Just to let you know, your Knysna seahorse reference was not completely lost. I'm from Knysna ;)

Posted by: Mark on September 20, 2008 4:10 PM